Bows, Crossbows and Their Balance


Yeah and as I explained multiple times, the poundage would still be fixed. You make the bow, get a special item, use the special item to make a poundage mod, attach the poundage mod to the bow, and it can’t be removed. It’s permanent, it stays, it’s not swappable in the slightest. It’s a little bit hacky, but I can’t think of a better way to implement having multiple poundages for bows that doesn’t involve having 80 bow items.

The idea isn’t that there’s some magic knob you turn on a bow to raise/lower the poundage (although some do have that), it’s just that you get to decide the poundage while making it based on the thickness of the limbs, strength of the material, etc. There isn’t a good way I know of to do that other than 50 crafting recipes or the gunmod solution.

IF, later on, I decide that swappable limbs for recurves would be cool, I might do that, but consider it a stretch goal.


Speaking of crossbows.
Pneumatic bolt driver is still an auto-learn schematic and is still much better in 99% of scenarios than any crossbow.


Mentioned that earlier, it has generally worse stats than the compound crossbow with the exception of the fact that it can hold 8 bolts. Mlangsdorg calculated that it takes around 23 shots for the reload time of the compound crossbow to actually overcome a fully-loaded PBD, but the difference is still there, and would quickly become apparent if you decided to take on a decent-sized horde of enemies or didn’t have the 4 minutes (base) it takes to fully reload the PBD between fights. Admittedly those are probably fairly rare conditions, but it still is the difference between killing a zombie every ~3 turns vs every ~5 turns.

That said, I’m considering pushing pneumatic weapons into a less efficient but more specialised balance niche, as opposed to crossbows. Something along the lines of more modular, more ammo options, multiple round capacity, etc. Unless someone has numbers otherwise, I’m going to assume that the energy efficiency of a crossbow/bow is a bit higher than that of a pneumatic weapon. In which case pneumatics will still probably remain the endgame weapon choice because of the ability to make more advanced designs, perhaps things like pebble LMGs or high-power (but slow) bolt pistols, despite the endgame crossbows probably outpacing them in raw DPS.


Errr, excuse me, but last time I checked pneumatic bolt drive has much better dispersion. As in, MUCH better.
And neither crossbow nor pneumatic bolt driver are an option for sustained fire at close range — that’s what bows are for.
Crossbows and pneumatic bolt driver are for burst damage, armor penetration and sniping at range — all 3 pneumatic bolt driver is better at.


Dispersion doesn’t really make a huge difference, especially with gunmods involved. Crossbows/PBD are both capable of sustained fire, they’re not that much slower than a bow (bows are roughly 1 turn to reload, so 3 or 5 times slower. Less with high strength). Keep in mind the extra damage will result in much higher dps against armored targets. Unless they don’t actually have better damage than bows, which would be an oversight on my part.

I definitely see your point, but the raw stat differences still exist, even if their practical applications don’t always reflect them.


The problem is (and has always been) the PBD itself.

Under the current meta, PBD is a composite crossbow with 8 shots.
And that’s not just “8 shots without reloading”.
That’s “8 rapid shots at the same target without re-aiming”.
So you can slap all of your “high-precision low-aim-speed” mods and simply annihilate anything up to and including a hulk from a single clip from a safe distance.
PBD initially deals damage to most targets about 4-6(!!!) times faster than a composite crossbow would.
And the reloading speed is really not that different from composite crossbow once you factor in the fact you spend less time aiming per shot (since you do multiple from one aim).

Long story short — PBD is the culprit balance-wise. I suspect that’s happening because it’s a fictional weapon that does not actually exist IRL.
The way to fix it is, from what I can tell:

  • lower PBD damage significantly (write it off as the fact you can’t DIY a good enough pneumatic system with rotating cambers to reliably drive the bolt at the same speed as composite crossbow)
  • REALLY increase the minimum reload speed of PBD (to something like 2-3 minutes per bolt).

P.S. For targets that only need a single bolt you might as well use a normal bow. Neither PBD nor crossbow are warranted.


Ehhh I disagree that the PBD is the sole culprit, if everything else were perfectly balanced it would be fine, but I think the crossbows are a bit on the weak side. I want to eventually add more crossbows so that the crossbow comparable to the PBD in skill/material costs is, say, twice as powerful. The PBD could probably use lower damage though. I need to think on it some more.


If you make crossbows noticeably stronger, single-shot rifles below .50 will become effectively moot. (Both will one-shot most targets about equally well, while the rifle is much louder and eats limited ammunition.)

Let’s take PBD out of the equation, then we have:

  • bows are great for sustainable high DPS vs multiple targets, but struggle vs armored targets and are pretty bad for snipping from range (well, bad without pretty impressively high skill).
  • crossbows have high alpha (potentially one-shot good), are equally good vs both armored and non-armored, good for sniping, are better at low skill, but are not good at all when you simply need high sustainable DPS vs multiple targets

Now, add PBD. It’s a clear crossbow on steroids. Basically with PBD around normal crossbows are only needed if you DON’T use bows. Otherwise they end up being “neither here nor there”.

should PBD be able to drop a full health HULK from 8-shots clip with decent (4-ish) skill before the hulk forces you to move?


I see your point, and I don’t have a satisfactory answer yet. I don’t know if the issue is quite that serious, but I intend to look into it some this week now that I have some free time and can get some playing in. I’ll do some research into how pneumatic weapons are done in real life, and it might end up being something along the lines of drastically increasing their reload time and/or requiring special equipment to reload, so they perform well as an alpha-strike weapon but for fights that require more shots than they hold, they become useless.

I’m also not sure how my intended new crossbows will play into that, so I need to sit and work it out at some point.


My current thought would be to lower the power of the PDB quite a bit - you are not possibly getting a perfect gas seal while launching a bolt with fletching. If the PDB becomes about as powerful as a normal crossbow, that might give the heavier crossbows a bit more utility. It might also make sense to limit the PDB to 4 shots.

I’d also consider adding a pneumatic rail rifle, which would be the shotgun of the pneumatic family: massive damage because you’re firing rails that get an excellent gas seal, but the terrible dispersion (because the rails have no stabilization and start flipping end over end) limits the range.

That would mean you’d have the following options:

  • bow - consistent, semi-rapid, medium damage weapon. the jack of all trades.
  • pneumatic assault rifle: low AP, medium damage, moderate to long range, extremely rapid fire for short bursts, but then long reloads. good for hit and run against normal zombies and wildlife or killing 1-2 lightly armored targets like bears or moose
  • pneumatic bolt driver: medium to high AP, medium damage, moderate range, flexible ammo choice, extremely long reload. again, hit and run.
  • pneumatic rail rifle: high damage with high AP at short range, extremely long reload. kill a hulk or splatter a couple of normal zombies.
  • crossbows: high damage, high AP, medium to long range, long reload, single shot.

Reload times need to be adjusted so that PDB and a bow fire the 10th or 12th shot at the same time and PDB is slower than a crossbow after ~16 shots.


And these numbers are based on what?
I mean, why not just give PBD a 60+ seconds (1000+ moves) minimum reload time per bolt and call it a day?

P.S. Also, just out of interest: why do you think anything but pneumatic rifles should exist as a viable pneumatic weapon? I mean, the idea behind pneumatic rifles is that a small pellet (“bullet”, if you will) gets kinetic energy from compressed gas, and gas is used because it allows you to fire multiply “bullets” and to propel them without direct contact.
Basically they are more or less conventional firearms with gunpowder replaced with compressed air.

If you what to propel single pretty huge bolt or rail, I really think storing kinetic energy in a spring (or bow shoulders, etc) is actually more practical than using compressed gas.


No real reason for those particular ratios beyond giving the various weapons different roles and uses.

I don’t see that my suggestions would make the PDB and the PRR useless: the PRR would be very useful as an emergency weapon for melee fighters, the PDB would still be useful as a crossbow replacement, just not overwhelmingly better.


I never said your suggestions will make either PDB or PRR useless.


Game design failure aside. Logical path would dictate as I mention. Programming wise. Perhaps not. But it would go in that direction.


No you don’t understand, the zombies aren’t that kind of undead. They wouldn’t rot even if the game was perfectly realistic.


They aren’t even “undead”, to be fair.

They are just the husks inhabited by alien goo.


Ah, I misread “why do you think anything but pneumatic rifles should exist as a viable pneumatic weapon”.

Multishot pneumatic weapons that luanch darts exist in the real world - the FN 303 dart gun is one example, and animal control tranquilizer guns are others. Scaling those up to fire bolts, so that you’ve got a longer ranged weapon, makes sense to me in a zombie survival situation. Especially since they’re already pretty big bore (11mm) and scaling up mostly means using a higher pressure air feed to launch the bolt.

The choice of springs versus compressed air depends on what you have access to, I’d think. The game doesn’t have the infrastructure for it yet, but if you could pre-load air tanks and then swap them out when they were low on pressure, you could end up with a PDB equivalent that is quicker to reload in the field than a crossbow: disengage the old tank, put in the new one, release the old bolt magazine, swap in a new one in about 10-12 seconds and you’re good to go for another 8 shots. Doing the same with 8 springs is going to be a lot heavier than a compressed air tank.


I don’t have any definitive proof at hand, but I’m pretty sure the reason pneumatic’s are, in fact, NOT used IRL for anything larger/heavier than a tranquilizer dart is because they actually suck at propelling such large/heavy objects reliably to high enough velocity when compared to an actual spring/pulley pushing the said large object.

Which, accidentally, is exactly how you can balance it in the game: make pneumatics simply have an upper limit on how fast it can make a massive object (heavy steel bolt, etc) go while maintaining reasonable barrel length. And thus have an upper limit on the damage of such contraption per shot lower than conventional string-propelled design.


Looking at the Airbow (Real life commercial pneumatic arrow rifle), it’s… quite impressive. It seems to have power comparable to most modern crossbows, and with a high-pressure pump you can allegedly “reload” it in around 30 seconds, or 5 turns in our numbers. Which is what it currently is. Of course that’s 30 seconds to reload the tank for 8 shots, we spend 30 seconds to reload one arrow, so interpret that as you will.

Of course that doesn’t account for attaching the pump and all, but any self-respecting survivor would have it integrated anyway. Taking reality into account makes it far harder to balance things. It seems that most of the existing numbers may have to remain as they are, with a couple of minor alterations, perhaps even reducing the reload time of the PBD.

That said, that doesn’t mean we can’t balance it in sneaky ways. Like I said before, balancing it by requiring special equipment to reload it might even be an option. Having to somehow build a high-pressure hand pump to use it would be fairly cumbersome. As would requiring special arrows like the Airbow, and giving them far less durability and/or greater crafting requirements.
That said, we could just handwave it and say that a survivor can’t possibly put together an effective 3000 PSI system, and limit pneumatics to around half their current damage. Or even make pneumatic weapons findable only, but that might be a bit mean.

Weight and volume is another option. A crossbow is comparatively quite light compared to a pneumatic weapon. Maybe they should just be horribly unwieldy?

Personally I’m of the mind to heavily reduce the accuracy of the existing PBD and maybe even it’s capacity. I worry though, that reducing it to too few arrows would make it just another crossbow, and then how the hell do we balance it?

Basically we have three options.

  1. Accept reality and just let pneumatic weapons be the top end archery weapons. Bows and crossbows would all have to be scaled back in crafting difficulty to make more sense, but it would work out okay overall I think.
  2. Reject reality, substitute our own. Pneumatic weapons can fit a niche of rapid shots in bursts, then have long reloads and/or low damage.
  3. Make it impossible for pneumatic weapons to be crafted so they can only be found, and possibly experiment with making them ungodly fragile and requiring excessive maintenance due to their complexity.


Actually, I’d say the easiest way to functionally fix the issue is allow two types of ammunition:

  1. Ammunition with “proper” pneumatic seals that can deal “full” damage, but is long to craft (like, 20 minutes per piece or something) and breaks easily
  2. Ammunition with “quick” pneumatic seals that deal only a portion of full damage, but can be crafted quickly and/or is much more durable.

On top of that we can also add better pneumatic’s that can only be found, but they would still be in the same situation ammunition-wise.